The inaugural night of CMJ was equal parts thrilling and utterly confusing, as a flurry of tight-pantsed musicians, industry professionals, and bloggers looking to break the next big thing (see below) descended on lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I kicked off the evening at Santo’s Party House, where Dinowalrus banged out reverb-soaked, frenzied psychedelic rock as part of the Panache showcase. Singer Pete Feigenbaum growled and yelped, strutting through the strobe-lit audience — much to the delight of an older gentleman with a white ponytail dangling to his tailbone, who was rocking out harder than any of the slouching 20-somethings packing the room. Upstairs, Austin-based Harlem played an enthusiastic set thick with fuzzy guitars and feel-good harmonies.
Over in Brooklyn, Antlers performed songs from their eerie, ethereal, and highly-crafted concept album Hospice to a rapt and sold-out crowd; luckily for those left out on the sidewalk, Peter Silberman’s gorgeous, whispy vocals filtered clearly into the street. Following Antlers, London’s Fanfarlo – rumored to be one of this year’s CMJ breakout bands, and for good reason – took the stage, flooding the room with swelling strings and swooping vocals.
A few blocks away at the Knitting Factory, Psychic Paramount were hard at work, building a dense collage of drone against rapid-fire drumming. Performing with unbelievable precision and focus (and without pause), Psychic Paramount pulled off the kind of raw, warped post-rock that is simultaneously jarring and mesmerizing.
I wrapped up the night with PopGun Booking’s showcase at Cameo Gallery, where Anamanaguchi melded driving guitars, videogame-influenced electronic blurts and bleeps, and pop punk stylings (if the Mario Bros were a little more hardcore, this would be their soundtrack) against tripped-out, pixilated video art. Around 1 am, Darwin Deez (this blogger’s personal fave for the evening) took the stage, introducing their set with a choreographed dance routine – the first of several to come – to “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” before segueing into their brand of drifting, lo-fi slacker pop. Singer Darwin Smith’s voice is surprisingly shy and sweet, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another band that has this much fun onstage.